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Parshiyyot Vayakhel-Pekudei 5778 — 03/10/2018

Parshiyyot Vayakhel-Pekudei 5778 — 03/10/2018

Vayakhel: Shemot 35:1-38:20
Pekudei: Shemot 38:21-40:38

In last week’s parashah we found the Israelites engaging in a “great sin” by making a golden calf. We saw that the consensus of the commentators was that the calf was not an idol, but rather an attempt by the people to maintain their connection with Gd, which they felt they had lost when they thought Moshe Rabbeinu might not return. The trouble was not that they wanted to maintain connection; the problem was that they chose the wrong medium. The last 16 chapters of Sefer Shemot (Exodus) are mostly devoted to the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle in the desert that was to be the focus of their connection to Gd from then on.

Now besides their obvious differences, both the calf and the Mishkan were physical structures that were meant for the same positive, spiritual purpose. Yet Gd commanded one and execrated the other. Why were the reactions so different? And what does that tell us about the mechanics of connecting to Gd?

Various commentators discuss the symbolism inherent in the Mishkan and its appurtenances. Ramban explicitly states that the purpose of the Mishkan was to recreate the experience of standing at Mt. Sinai – that is, the experience of Revelation. Abarbanel looks at the different pieces:

… the symbolism of the portable Tabernacle and its utensils is not based on understandings that can be derived by human rational intellect. Gd clearly has no need to physically symbolize concepts that man can derive on his own. Also, man’s intellect often leads him astray, especially when he tries to connect the symbolism of the Mishkan to the more esoteric spiritual concepts…
The Kodesh Kodashim – Holy of Holies – where the Ark and tablets were placed, along with the Ark’s special covering and the cherubim, symbolizes that our purpose in life is to be involved in Gd’s Torah and mitzvot. This is directly symbolized by the tablets, on which the Ten Commandments were engraved, and the Torah scroll, which were both kept inside the Ark. … The Holy of Holies, then, symbolizes the concept of Torah lishmah – learning Torah and performing mitzvot for their own sake, without any expectation of reward.

Based on our analysis of the nature of the Revelation at Mt. Sinai, I’d like to suggest an additional approach to the idea that the Mishkan is symbolic of various structures or ideas. We began by noting that at the basis of physical creation there is what Physics calls a Unified Field, an entity that is beyond space and time yet contains all of space and time within it. This field can vibrate in different ways and each different mode of vibration is a different kind of elementary particle. If the Unified Field vibrates in one way we see electrons – the harder it is vibrating the more electrons we see. Other modes correspond to the constituents of protons and neutrons, to photons, etc.

Not only the elementary particles are vibrations of the Unified Field, the interactions between the elementary particles are also vibrations of the Unified Field. The Unified Field is self-interacting; there is nothing outside the Unified Field to interact with. In addition, since the different modes of vibration of the Unified Field interact with one another (e.g. “opposite charges attract”) the Unified Field is interacting with itself when we see particles interacting. Therefore it is correct to say that all matter and all structure are nothing more than a complex, self-interacting vibratory pattern of the Unified Field.

As in the physical world, in the spiritual world there is a Unified entity, Gd, at the basis of all creation. Gd obviously knows Himself – if we can know ourselves, surely Gd can do no less, and indeed, if Gd is all that there is, then Gd has only Himself to know! Gd creates from within Himself all the forms and phenomena of creation, which all have a unique vibratory quality. Our Tradition makes the remarkable claim that the actual sounds of the Torah are an expression in human speech of these vibratory qualities of creation, a sort of virtual set of vibrations within Gd’s Unity. Our physiology too is a particular set of vibrations, and I believe that part of the refining effect of Torah study occurs when we hear (or ourselves make) the sounds of Torah, and it causes a kind of resonance effect in the physiology, aligning it with the ideal as expressed in Torah.

I think perhaps we can extend this argument to the actual structure of the Mishkan and the rituals and services performed there, as we will read about in the first few parshiyyot of Sefer Vayikra, beginning next week. The Mishkan and its utensils all had very specific structures, and only specific people, dressed in a specific way, were able to perform the very specific procedures that took place there. My suggestion is that these structures and performances, which Gd “showed” to Moshe Rabbeinu on Mt. Sinai, are actual replicas as it were of the underlying vibratory structures of both macroscopic creation and human physiology.

As we know, all male Jews were required to appear three times a year (Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot) in the synagogue, and to bring various offerings for the rituals there. I believe that the sights, sounds, smells, tastes of the buildings, the offerings, the utensils, the Kohanim, all together created a resonance effect on those present that refined their physiology in the same way that Torah does. Rather than simply symbolizing the underlying reality, I think the Mishkan was a model of the deepest structures of creation, and attuned our souls to that reality. May it be rebuilt speedily in our day!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parshiyyot Vayakhei-Pekudei

God’s Glory filled the Mishkan (also called “The Tabernacle”) in the previous parshah, Ki Tisa, Moses asked Gd to “Show me your Glory”. Gd said “I will show you my back but My Face you cannot see for no man can see my Face and live.”

The same Hebrew word translated as “Glory” is used in both parshiyyot: “kavod”. The implication I draw is that the construction of the Mishkan created a harmonious resonance with Moses and with everyone so that more of the full perception of Gd’s Presence, Gd’s Glory, was possible. But Full Awareness of Gd still depended then, as it does now, on the maturity of the soul of the perceiver.

Kabbalah is the tradition of looking into Torah and finding deeper levels of meaning; for example, Kabbalah views Gd as “Ein Sof”, endless, also beginningless, One, Eternal. It views individual souls as expressions of this Oneness remaining within the Oneness but diminishing progressively and then rising again until the full Reality is experienced: only Gd exists, everyone and everything is an expression of Gd, always within Gd and our individuality is Gd playing a game which Gd eventually (soon! we hope. Now! we hope) lets our individual souls win by returning to our status as Oneness, All-in All.

From this standpoint, the meticulous design and building of the Mishkan was a help to experience Gd’s Presence but to return to the Oneness everyone had to also perform the offerings and other actions Gd Prescribed to be performed in the Mishkan and also the other aspects of living that Gd prescribed.

There are many guidelines Gd gives Moses to give us (the traditional version is that there are 613) and some can only be performed when the Temple is standing and one is in it but the basic ones are: “Love the Lord Thy Gd with all thy heart, soul and mind” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.

Through our spontaneous appreciation of the beauty of the world around us and the gift of life within us we grow to love Gd with all our heart, soul and mind and we grow to appreciate and love the sweetness of being in communities where people appreciate each other, help each other, are kind to each other.

Through appreciation, gratitude, love we are restored to Oneness, the Fullness of Love and Joy and Gd’s Glory is Fully Present as All-in-All of which our individualities are fully restored expressions.

This parshah in describing the details of building the Mishkan according to Gd’s Plan helps to inspire us to appreciate the world within us and around us a Mishkan, a Tabernacle, a Temple which we are in the process of building and appreciating according to Gd’s Design imprinted within all and which through our appreciation and our actions bring the Grace that restores us to Full Awareness of our Oneness.

Baruch HaShem